Food & drink: Fashionably late

Eating Out: While it's true that Cocoon may not be a first-generation, quick-off-the-blocks pan-Asian restaurant, it does deliver the goods in a gloriously groovy setting

Every now and then a restaurant comes along that astounds you with its originality and vision; that takes your breath away with its freshness, groundbreaking food, and brave forward-thinking. This is not one of those restaurants. This is the by-product of those restaurants, owing, as it does, a great deal to Zuma, Roka, Nobu, Hakkasan and Yauatcha.

Is this plagiarism or just fashion? In recent years London has been getting more and more New Yorked; installing a cool mix of pan-Asian restaurant concepts. It is not fusion food so much as cleaned-up, modernised interpretations of traditional cuisine, presented afresh for a new generation.

Cocoon, a series of spherical, low-ceilinged dining- rooms and bars in the old L'Odeon restaurant space on Regent Street, is the latest in the genre. You enter off Air Street, divest of coats, and head up a spiral staircase. True to form, there is nothing remotely Asian about the look or feel of the room apart from a slight reference in the Japanesey staff outfits.

More blatant than most about being pan-Asian, it coolly mixes sushi and sashimi with dim sum and wok-fries - not on the same platters, thank Buddha, but throughout the menu. Over two visits, I have sampled mainly dim sum and sushi, to good effect. Two spanking slim-line fingers of salmon nigiri (pounds 6 - ouch, pounds 3 each) appear on a handsome, blonde-wooden board practically gleaming with health and happiness, while two glistening fingers of blue-fin tuna sashimi (pounds 4.50) have such a sparkle and lustre they could have come straight from Asprey.

There is a lot of circus sushi as well, with which the chefs like to walk a tightrope and perform death- defying feats. Dragon sushi rolls (pounds 7.50) filled with salmon and wrapped in fine slices of avocado look pretty enough until the avocado peels off like a mummy's bandages. Soft-shell crab maki (pounds 8) might be called dynamite spider roll as it is at Zuma, but there, the similarity ends. The texture is plasticky, the flavour ditto. And I can't be convinced that blasting salmon and tuna sushi with a blow-torch is a good idea.

The mixed dim-sum basket is an understudy to the Hakkasan version. A collection of seafood dim sum (pounds 12), contains two very familiar-looking scallop-topped siu mai dabbed with wasabi tobiko (crunchy little flying- fish roe), two opalescent green chive dumplings, two loosely juicy crab dumplings and two immaculately formed har gau, steamed prawn dumplings. Flavours are sweet, fresh and lively, the pastry skins (so difficult to make correctly) are admirably fine, and the technique is viciously good.

Much money has been spent - witness the classy wine glasses, round tables of clear Perspex encasing faux rose petals, celebrity wine list, and swivelling hemispherical chairs. We do love a good swivel this year. Designer Stephane Dupoux has created pod-like rooms divided by Starck-inspired net curtains that allow only a shadowy Pyscho-like glimpse of the goings-on around you. Even so, it quickly becomes clear that some pods are more desirable than others. But which? This uncertainty creates such social paranoia that, in every room, people are desperately trying to be up-graded to another.

There is not so much atmosphere as noise, and it is so warm that I fear I shall hatch from chrysalis to beautiful butterfly before the end of the meal. The staff are sweet in a space cadet sort of way, with lots of dishes and bills brought to the wrong tables - although this could be because everyone is trading up.

Of other dishes tried, a spiky, spicy Szechuan hot and sour soup has been refined without being robbed of its nationality, and plump duck spring rolls (pounds 5) are better than most. A salad of seared rare beef (pounds 10) is very cute - small rolls of beef rolled around pickled cucumber hide under a cloud of small green leaves and a give-me-more spicy chutney dressing.

Desserts - date samosas with spicy chocolate mousse and matcha sauce, or carrot coconut cake with pistachio cream and mango lassi - are resistible.

At night, it's a Saudi crowd, talking Brazilian taxes - or was that waxes? - anyway, apparently only women under 30 should have them. By day, "express" lunch options are added, that are indeed speedy (45 minutes), generous and well priced (a dim-sum set is pounds 15).

It is a slightly strange place. It makes me feel tense rather than relaxed, perhaps because it is building on the strengths of others rather than building something of its own. The dim sum is very good, but not as mind- blowingly good as at Hakkasan and Yauatcha. The sushi is superior, but not as luminously fresh as at Zuma. The rooms are pretty, but don't have the karma of Sketch.

Yet while certainly derivative, I don't see Cocoon as being second-rate. It's more of a natural progression - absorbing influences, learning from the masters and running with them into a fashionable future. This is not such a bad thing. Fashion is often the name given to something that we didn't know we wanted until we saw it. Clever people then, make sure we get it, at all levels.

Score:14 Cocoon 65 Regent Street, London W1, tel: 020 7494 7600. Lunch daily. Dinner Monday to Saturday. Around pounds 110 for two including drinks and service

SCORES 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK 10-11 NEEDS HELP 12 OK 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH 14 GOOD 15 VERY GOOD 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS 17 SPECIAL, CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup